ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – At times, Peyton Manning looks like he’s being fast-forwarded.
No taking most of the play clock to deke defenders into tipping their hand, no surveying the entire field to decipher opponents’ intentions.
Just get to the line, take the snap and get rid of the ball in a hurry.
Then, hustle up to the line and do it all again. And again. And again.
The Denver Broncos didn’t just steal away Tom Brady‘s favorite receiver in Wes Welker in free agency, they also adopted the New England Patriots’ feverish philosophy in turbocharging their already efficient offense this offseason.
When Adam Gase was promoted from Manning’s position coach to offensive coordinator over the winter, he excitedly talked about picking up the pace, and the Broncos have done just that, adding an up-tempo facet to Manning’s repertoire.
The Broncos might just be the best team playing fastbreak football this fall, too, what with Manning pushing the pedal and Welker on the other end.
Revving things up this offseason also has prepared Denver’s defense for the latest NFL trend.
“Communication. It speeds up everything,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “I think it is good for us to start now because we saw a little bit of that last year and it hurt us. … When it starts going slow, it will be easy for us. The communication part is the most important thing because you can’t really talk a lot. You have to use a lot of sign language and things like that. It really prepares us for what is to come.”
The Broncos remember all too well their loss at New England last October when anybody daring to run grab a cold one from the fridge risked missing plenty of action. The Patriots got off 89 plays that afternoon, registering a team-record 35 first downs in a 31-21 win in which Welker had nine catches by halftime.
The Broncos were ill-prepared for the snappy snaps that day in Foxborough, Mass., failing to get lined up properly or to get their defensive calls hollered out before Brady was dropping back and hitting Welker with quick slants to catch them flat-footed over and over.
“We’re going to benefit a lot from” seeing it in practice every day, safety David Bruton said. “Just getting the communication across the board real quick. New England, for example, last year they went with that fast tempo and we showed chinks in our armor. We weren’t coherent, we weren’t stable, we weren’t as fluid as we wanted to be on defense. So, with our offense going at such a fast pace, we have no choice but to get it right or they’re going to tear us up, as well.
“We definitely feel like we’ll be ready for any team that comes out with a fast pace, and seeing as how that’s a part of the NFL today, we’re going to see it a lot.”
Manning said it helps that he’s in his second season in Denver, building on the foundation that was laid down a year ago. Gase’s promotion following Mike McCoy‘s departure to coach the San Diego Chargers this winter opened the door for Greg Knapp to come on board as his new position coach.
“So, we are learning a new offense but at the same time, there is enough familiarity from last year that does make every player feel more confident,” Manning said. “And, when you know what you’re doing, you play faster. Receivers can run faster routes, I think quarterbacks and running backs have a better idea of what they’re doing and you can go out there and play without having to think as much.
“Any time you can take the thinking out of football, that’s a good thing.”
Gase has been peppered with questions about the Broncos’ up-tempo trend all offseason and he’s been trying to dial back expectations that Denver is going to run teams ragged, especially at altitude, right from kickoff.
The key he said, is having the flexibility to change the pace from series to series or even snap to snap.
“I think our ability to move in and out of any speed packages is good. We’ll slow it down some. I don’t want to say that it’s going to be this high tempo that everyone’s talking about. We’ve just got the tools to move in and out of speeds as we go during the season,” Gase said Thursday.
“I think our tools are going to be the key as far as, ‘Hey, we need to slow it down here. Maybe we’ll shift here. It’s going to be huddle. We’re on the ball. The quarterback has a chance to move in and out of those kinds of speeds.’ I mean, we’re not looking at the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly type of offense here.”
Gase said the ability to speed things up will help their two-minute offense, but it’s not like he’s trying to get in a certain number of more snaps per game.
He’s actually hoping to be able to slow things down a bit, too.
“I think the biggest thing is how do we figure out a way to put the ball in the end zone earlier and more often? And then be able to close it out,” Gase said. “That was one of the things last year we got criticized on was just the sloppiness of the end of the game. We’ve got to be able to shut the door. And now that goes back into, ‘Hey, we’re back in the huddle. We’re slowing it down. Now, we’ve got to be able to execute it.’